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World Suicide Prevention Day

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The New Dunedin Hospital building site will be Flying the Flag for Suicide Prevention this week in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.   

It is a week-long event run annually by MATES in Construction, acknowledging those we have lost to suicide and celebrating the trained volunteers on participating sites across the country.     

MATES in Construction Field Officers Evan Teiti and Fletcher Kaan look after their industry for Otago and Southland.     

Evan has been a Field Officer for one and a half years and he’s been delivering the MATES message on the New Dunedin Hospital build since establishing a relationship with the workforce team in March 2022.      

“Fly the Flag is a time to recognise and acknowledge the construction industry for taking action and uniting together to help workers who may be struggling,” Evan says.       

“It acknowledges that our people are important to us, and the need to work together to improve suicide awareness and overall good mental health.”      

Some of the key messages during the week to remember, he says, is to remember the 538 suspected deaths to suicide nationwide from 2021 to 2022 and that some of them are attributed to the construction industry.     

While it is heartening that the rate of suspected suicides in New Zealand is falling, this ongoing awareness work is incredibly important as the construction industry has the highest rate of suicide when compared to all other industries in New Zealand.      

“Suicide prevention and mental health remain daunting conversations to have, and there is still some way to go to inform the public about the impact suicide has on the construction industry,” says Evan.    

“We are six times more likely to lose someone to suicide than workplace accidents.”      

As part of the Fly the Flag event, a Toolbox Talk was held onsite at the Outpatient Building site on September 7 to keep raising awareness and education on suicide prevention.     

Te Whatu Ora Chief Infrastructure and Investment Officer Jeremy Holman says the New Dunedin Hospital is currently the largest health infrastructure project in New Zealand, and hundreds of construction workers will be involved over the course of the project.   

“It’s crucial that we support wellbeing within an industry that’s so integral to this project, as well as the many developments and other health infrastructure projects across the motu,” says Mr Holman.    

The New Dunedin Hospital is being built in two stages and hundreds of workers are expected to be on the site for the build, which is New Zealand’s largest health investment.     

Evan is confident that the MATES in Construction programme is encouraging a shift away from the “she’ll be right” attitude to a more help-seeking, help-offering and help-accepting attitude.   
“To continue changing the culture of our industry, we encourage the conversation of positive mental health to be had at all levels of our industry – from the decision-makers to our apprentices.”       

Suicide affects us all one way or another and so everybody has a role to play when it comes to tackling the issue, he says.      

“Even though MATES in Construction’s focus is on the construction industry, suicide is a national problem, not just an industry problem.”    

What to look out for   

In construction, 98 percent of the workers are men, and men naturally are not good at speaking about how they are feeling.     

If you see a change in behaviour with your friends and family over a period of time, check in on them.    

It can be confronting starting the conversation so reach out to the MATES in Construction helpline on 0800 111 315 for resources and tools on how to start a conversation and where to get help.      

Where to get help?     

Across the Te Whatu Ora Southern health system are a range of services to support mental wellbeing whether through short-term assistance or ongoing care.     

Go to Mental health and addictions | Southern Health | He hauora, he kuru pounamu  

 Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP).   
Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat.   
Samaritans – 0800 726 666   
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).   
Healthline – 0800 611 116   

Home | Find wellbeing support | Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ 

If you’re worried someone may be suicidal | Ministry of Health NZ   

If either you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, please call emergency services immediately on 111.